STATESBORO, Ga. - Georgia Southern battled top-ranked Appalachian State to double-overtime, but a Kevin Richardson 3-yard TD run proved to be the difference as the Eagles' dropped a 27-20 Homecoming decision Saturday (Oct. 21) at Paulson Stadium. It was the first overtime game played in Paulson since a first-round playoff win against Maine 19 years ago.
During the first overtime Patrick Bolen hit from 27 yards out, but ASU responded with a Julian Rauch 23-yarder. During the second OT session, Richardson capped a four-play drive scoring from three yards.
Travis Clark just missed connecting with Reggie McCutchen in the endzone on second down. Two more incomplete passes gave ASU the win on the road.
"We didn't play as well as we can but we are getting better. Every week we are getting better, and the improvement is dramatic. But losing today is disappointing, our play is not good enough yet," said VanGorder.
The Eagles (3-4 overall, 2-2 SoCon) entered the game 37th nationally in fourth down conversion defense (38 percent), and they were put to the test early. In the first quarter, App State had the ball in Eagle territory on the 40. Georgia Southern's defense held Armanti Edwards short on third down. Facing 4th-and-1 from the 31, Edwards overthrew his target and the Eagles took over on downs.
Later in the quarter, Edwards picked up a first down rushing but took a hard hit from sophomore Dedrick Bynam. On the very next play, the true-freshman quarterback was stripped of the ball by Branden Daniel then Dawayne Grace recovered on App's 42. However, the Eagles had incomplete passes on third and fourth down.
During the ensuing drive, Edwards was hurried on his throw and Terrione Benefield intercepted the pass on the ASU 40. For the redshirt-freshman linebacker it was his third pick on the year. This time Georgia Southern put points on the board.
Facing 3rd-and-6 from the 19, Raja Andrews made a highlight reel catch off Clark's pass, getting his feet down before falling out the back of the endzone. That catch was the first career TD reception for the sophomore wide receiver. Bolen's PAT made it 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the second.
ASU (7-1, 4-0) then drove 53 yards on nine plays to crack the scoreboard. Rauch nailed a 30-yard attempt cutting the Eagles' lead to 7-3.
To start the second half, ASU marched down to the Eagle 10. Edwards rushed down to the two, but on the next play he recovered a muffed handoff with Richardson. Jason Earwood and Larry Beard stopped Edwards short on third down. Again, the Eagle defense rose to the occasion on 4th-and-1 from the two. Led by seniors Charrod Taylor and Rico Zackery, they stuffed Richardson inches short of the first down marker.
After the Mountaineers forced a 3-and-out, they took over on the Eagles' 29. Four plays later Edwards rushed for a 15-yard TD, their first lead of the game at 10-7.
Jayson Foster got the team rolling and the Eagles quickly tied the game. At the goal line he returned the kickoff 42 yards. The junior wide receiver took a reverse and nearly broke through on a touchdown, but was forced out-of-bounds after a 30-yard gain. Bolen nailed a 26-yard field goal to tie the score at 10 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter.
The Eagles pinned App State deep in its own territory. Earwood hit Richardson, who fumbled the ball. Ronnie Wiggins scooped up the loose ball and dove into the endzone for a 17-yard return. The extra point gave GS a 17-10 lead with 12:18 remaining. It marked the first time in 54 games the Eagles scored a TD off a fumble return (David Young in 2002 home-opener versus Gardner-Webb). However, ASU quickly tied the game.
Edwards connected on a 65-yard TD pass with William Mayfield for a tying score with 11 minutes left. Following an Edwards' 46-yard pass to Richardson on their next drive, Wiggins recovered Edwards' second fumble of the game, one of six ASU fumbles and four turnovers in the game.
GS had a chance late in regulation, getting the ball on its own 43. Clark completed two passes and rushed twice to put the Eagles on the App 38. A swing pass to Foster went for a 5-yard loss then an incomplete pass with less than 30 seconds left forced a punt. App took a knee to force overtime.
"I'm not going to talk about any kind of moral victory. We expected to win the football game today," said VanGorder. "Our defense did a good job on takeaways, we were much more physical today... Our whole football team is coming around. We're getting better but these games you have to deliver. When it's time to deliver, you deliver. In the back end we did not do that today."
Lamar Lewis gained 62 yards on 14 carries and Foster added 47 yards. Clark completed 14-of-36 passes for 95 yards and the touchdown. Lewis caught a career-high six passes for 31 yards.
Mohring recorded a game-high 12 tackles and Bynam contributed a career-high nine tackles. The last time an Eagle recovered two fumbles came last year when Bynam did so in the regular-season finale (against Morehead State).
Edwards threw for 210 yards and rushed for another 140. Richardson added 65 yards on the ground and 101 receiving on four catches.
Georgia Southern travels to The Citadel next Saturday (Oct. 28) for a 2 p.m. kickoff. App State hosts Furman next Saturday at 3:30.